I drove down to Bluffton, GA (180 miles SW of Atlanta) yesterday to celebrate the grand opening of Will Harris' White Oak Pastures harvesting facility. A couple hundred people showed up to eat Will's grassfed beef and participate in the festivities. The cooks made sausage, chili, beef stew and more - all from White Oak Pastures. YUM.
The sun burned off the clouds and it was a great day. Lots of folks made the trek from Atlanta, including Whole Foods Market's Scott Allshouse, president of the South region. A loan from WFM, along with grants from OneGeorgia and Early County allowed Will to build the facility, allowing him to "harvest" his cows right there on the farm instead of loading them onto an 18-wheeler and sending them hundreds of miles away. The facility was designed through consultation by the famed Temple Grandin and is amazingly humane. These cows are born, grow up, and finish their lives all on this beautiful farm, dining at an all-you-can-eat grass buffet.
Another amazing fact is that the facility is "zero waste." Even the waste water is reclaimed to be used for fertilizer. Will says that there are very few facilities like his in the country and now he knows why! The regulators have had a hard time understanding his goals - suggesting, for instance, that he just truck that waste water up the road to the nearest town and dump it in their waste treatment plant! So every step of the way he's had to educate someone, which is good for all of us.
It was fun to see so many Atlantans come out to enjoy the day. Those included Slow Food's Julie Shaffer, Georgia Organics' Barbara Petit, Whole Foods Market's Cheryl Galway and Darrah Horgan, GRA's Green Alliance Holly Elmore, Emory/Sodexho's Christy Cook and Savannah's "Farmer D." Terry Coleman was there to speak and represent the Agriculture Department.